A brief trip window-shopping through downtown Williamsburg yields a variety of products displayed in storefronts, from signs advertising sub sandwiches, to fine jewelry, candy, clothing and more.
Each store offers its own unique goods and services, but what’s something dozens of these stores in the Historic Triangle have in common?
A small, blue sticker in their front window that reads “The Burg Life.”
So, what is The Burg Life?
A self-described “serial entrepreneur” from Williamsburg has created a smartphone app to emphasize the “local” in area businesses.
About two-and-a-half years ago, Patrick Neary, 50, was sitting in his home office when he began to ponder ways to funnel business to local shops and restaurants.
“I thought there’s no way, there’s nothing out there in the Historic Triangle market… that actually promotes locally-owned businesses,” Neary said.
That’s when The Burg Life began to take shape.
The app has been active for about a year and features multiple business categories including restaurants and shopping, listing deals under each tab.
Local small business and franchise owners can list their deals on the app at no cost. Corporations cannot be featured on the app unless they are the only business of their kind in the entire Historic Triangle.
“Rather than carrying around coupons … all they simply do is access the business through the app,” Neary said.
Neary is a small business owner himself. He moved to Williamsburg from the Washington, D.C. metro area in 1994, starting off in the Williamsburg real estate industry as a broker.
From there, Neary started his own company doing real estate consulting. He is also the director of marketing and sales for VPP Inc., a Google-trusted commercial photography company on the Virginia Peninsula.
Neary also owns LOCALS ONLY Williamsburg, the company behind The Burg Life.
“I’m very happy with what we have so far,” Neary said. “As it’s being branded, we’re going to get more and more folks.”
The Burg Life now has more than 12,000 downloads, 500 members and 250 businesses listing deals.
The app is free to download, but requires $20 to buy a digital membership card. Through that membership, users can browse shops and restaurant offerings.
“That’s the way the app is monetized,” Neary said.
Now, the app is also offering a free 30-day trial for those who want to “test the waters.”
Neary has access to data about his user base, including where members are from and where they’re using the deals. He said users are both local and all across the country.
The membership fee not only allows Neary to monetize the business, but it helps pay for updates to the app, programming and new features.
Neary said he hopes to continue growing the number of members and businesses on the app, but has no immediate plans to extend its geographical coverage area.
The Burg Life will also soon feature a “Services” tab in addition to shopping and restaurants, featuring painters, plumbers, power washers and more.
“You have Trip Advisor, but they deal with anyone,” Neary said. “The whole idea is to really promote this community and promote the locally-owned businesses.”